Following the Yellow-Brick Road: Pathways to Recovery
Frank Baum writes “The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick, said the Witch so you cannot miss it. When you get to Oz do not be afraid of him, but tell your story and ask him to help you”. For an individual planning on entering treatment so they can recover from an addiction, finding the right kind of treatment is a journey, much like the one Dorthy-Gail faced on her way to see the great and powerful Oz. There are many different yellow-brick paths that an individual can follow on the way to recovery. Then once they locate the right program, and they can see their emerald city in the distance, it is all about telling their story and getting the help that they need to recover. So, what options are out there for an individual recovering from addiction? What options are out there for families of individuals who are recovering? What does it take to hook someone and how do you keep them engaged?
In this blog, I will first begin by talking about peer based support groups. Then I will move into some of the challenges that make treatment of addiction hard. From there I will Talk about some of the tools that have been developed to aid an individual with an addiction through their recovery process. Finally, I will end by discussing relapse and why it is important not to consider a relapse a failure.
To begin, listen to Crystal’s story below:
Peer Based Support Groups
The road to recovery can be scary. In some cases, the individuals may feel as if they are alone and like no one understands them, or what they are going through. They are talking to these doctors, social workers, and caseworkers, but have any of them ever survived and addiction? Have any of them ever been in recovery? Have they had family members who have done this? In some cases, the answer is yes. One of the treatment options for individuals recovering from addiction is peer based support groups (see video below).
On the individual level peer based support groups can be good because it takes an individual in long-term recovery and pairs them with someone who is just is entering into recovery, exposing them to knowledge, and networks that others couldn’t (Hillios, 2013). Peer groups are more formal than traditional sponsorship, and it emphasizes that there are multiple pathways rather than just one pathway (Jones,2017). The strategy is good, but there is no money in it and how people are paid is different in every state. In some cases, these peer mentors aren’t paid for at all despite how effective they are (Jones,2017). To keep programs like this running organizations, rely on funds from grants and volunteers. Peer based programs aren’t just for the individuals though they can also be for the families.
In terms of families, there is a 5-step model for their recovery which includes: crisis response, stabilization, acceptance, family recovery initiation, and family recovery integration (Jones,2017). To become a family coach individuals, have to do a 40-hour curriculum for coach training, and an additional 16 hours for a family certification (Jones,2017). Families can be a powerful force in the recovery process, but they need to heal, to learn, and to discover before they can help their loved ones. Even with all of these supports though, there are some significant challenges to the recovery process.
Challenges on the Road to Recovery
Just as Dorthy had to face many challenges that the Wicked Witch put in place for her on her way to the Emerald city, there are many challenges that individuals with addictions to opioids have to face on their way to recovery, which include: detox, and their social circles. Below is a video where a man talks about some of the symptoms that he experiences during his detox which will introduce the stages talked about below.
Detox has essentially four stages that are associated with it. The first stage, onset, takes place 8-16 hours after the last use (Vaccaro, 2017). In this stage, the individual displays symptoms such as a runny nose, sweating, twitching, goosebumps, anxiety, agitation, and insomnia (Vaccaro, 2017). In the peak stage, which takes place 36 hours after onset, individuals show symptoms such as severe agitation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increase in blood pressure, and increase in heart rate (Vaccaro, 2017). The subsidence stage is 10 days after onset, this is the stage where the symptoms gradually reduce and lead to the post-acute withdraw stage which can take up to a year (Vaccaro, 2017). In this post-acute withdraw stage symptoms include Muscle aches, insomnia, weakness, anxiety, and depression (Vaccaro, 2017). So, as you can see detox can be a really difficult component of the recovery process leading to instances of relapse, especially in instances where individuals are not supported. This is why social support and the construction of social circles is significant to the recovery process.
We know that the people in our microsystems (family, teachers, peers, etc.) play a key role in our development and can affect the person that we become. As we grow older and develop a sense of autonomy our friends and their views become more important and influential on us. When an individual with an addiction enters recovery, it is important to get them into a social circle that promotes that recovery rather than one that inhibits it. When an individual is first entering recovery, their social circles have other people addicted to substances, dealers, and people whose relationships with them may be toxic. So, by providing them with social circles that promote a sober life they can be more successful. When an individual with addiction is encountering these struggles, it is important to remember that there is a tool out there to aid them in their recovery.
Tools for Recovery
There are many tools out there for an individual with an addiction to use, but you have to get them hooked and then keep them coming back to use that tool for it to be effective in their recovery process. Much like everything else around us these tools are evolving with time and incorporating technological trends. One such tool, an app developed by an IUP alumni, Ryan Brannon, is an app called My New Leaf.
My New Leaf
My New Leaf is a revolutionary app in terms of addiction to substances and recovery. Using concepts of gamification, the app hooks the subscriber through the use of avatars, points, badges and more (Brannon, 2017). One of the core issues in addiction to substances and recovery that this app addresses is addressing the millennials who are becoming more ingrained in their devices. The metaphor that was used to create the concept of the app is that “within every seed lies the potential for perfection” (Brannon, 2017). This app also has a feature within it known as Val, which will allow service providers to gather data on their clients, with their permission. It basically provides anyone entering into recovery all of the tools that they need to be healthy and get assistance when they need it. Even with tools as advanced as this one though there are instances where an individual will relapse and begin using again.
The most important thing to remember about recovery, if nothing else, is that relapsing is not a failure. Addiction is a chronic mental illness that has many negative side effects associated with it. These side effects make it incredibly hard to fight the addiction and they affect every aspect of life. In fact, because of the level of difficulty in dealing with the components of the addiction relapse is common, but it is no different from the relapse of any other chronic illness (Vaccaro, 2017). When an individual with an addiction relapses, you shouldn’t persecute them but rather take it as a sign that their treatment needs to begin again or changes to that treatment need to be made (Vaccaro, 2017). Recovery is a journey, not a destination, it is a battle that you are always fighting. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So it is important to take dealing with addiction day by day.
Overall, there are many different roads to recovery and many different resources that an individual with an addiction can access. The trick is to find the one that works for you, recovery is not a generalization process, it should be individualized. Just as people have different motives and precursors that lead to their addictions, people need different options for recovery. Lastly, relapse does not equal failure, it just means that treatment needs to be reinstated or changed.
Baum, L. F. (2005). The Wizard of Oz. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brannon, R. (2017). Can Recovery be Fun? [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved 7/12/2017
Hillios, J. (2013). Transcending Addiction and Redefining Recovery. TEDxBoulder. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from https://youtu.be/gzpTWaXshfM
Jones, R. (2017). Peer Based Family Support Programs [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved 7/12/2017
Vaccaro, C. (2017). Opioids [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved 7/12/2017